Happy New Year 2011!
Through the fog outside my window, the sun rises earlier than it did only a week ago. The day creeps longer. The year changes. Nature provides another renewal milestone.
Some partied last night, others slept early to begin today refreshed. Some have New Year’s resolutions, others prepare business goals or taxes, still others clean closets, plan upcoming vacations, or anticipate milestones planned for 2011.
For millennia, the change from depth of winter to increasing daylight was cause of reflection.
In ancient Rome the winter solstice was honored for rebirth of Apollo the sun god. Simultaneous celebrations for Saturn, god of agriculture, occurred for a week of festivities at year’s end – Saturnalia. Crowds once gathered in Rome’s streets to sing and dance by candlelight honoring winter’s depth with anticipation of sunnier days to accompany the next year’s harvest.
Early Christians’ isolated prayerful lifestyle was the antithesis of Romans’ raucous preferences, making it difficult for Christians to convert Romans to their faith.
In the early 4th century A.D. Constantine’s wife had adopted Christianity.
Emperor Constantine then officially declared December 25 as Jesus’ birthday. This allowed the Roman government to sponsor a birth-of-Jesus celebration amidst birth-of-Apollo hoopla.
Constantine’s government added Jesus’ birthday celebration to Rome’s year end revelry, with candlelight and singing in the streets. In the early 4th century A.D., Rome’s officials gradually increased support for Jesus’ birthday festivities, allowing Apollo’s solstice celebration to fade from common memory.
Early sculptures of baby Jesus transposed the same infant face for Jesus as had appeared on sculptures of infant Apollo, easing the worshipful transition to baby Jesus away from baby Apollo. Jesus’ December birthday proved a successful recruitment tool for Christianity to honor midwinter renewal. The once-new tradition continues 1700 years later. Throngs still gather annually at Roman Catholicism’s greatest symbol, in the Vatican’s Piazza San Pietro, for the Pope’s annual Christmas mass and public New Year blessing. Appearances changed; Roman tradition remains.
Regardless of historic or religious context, midwinter celebration continues with the return of sunlight, new life, vital crops, and loved ones. Today, the secular world begins 2011 with personal renewal, to-do lists, plans and obstacles to overcome.
Honoring the season of renewal, I recommit to writing endeavors. Inner doubts and barriers must be laid aside to focus upon stories’ linguistic details.
Through this juncture of darkness-to-light, rebirth and resolutions, may all awaken their personal baby Apollo-Jesus with new year growth. Happiness comes through celebrating the process, not only upon reaching an elusive goal. May all nurture a life of values while dancing toward dreams.
Wishing a blessed, healthy, strong 2011 to all!